BACK in 1934 Fr William Ross (1896-1973) came to Wilya in the Western Highlands and settled among the Mokei Ndepi Nampaka clan.
Wilya is about a mile south of where Mt Hagen was established four years later, in 1938.
The Mokei tribe is divided into two major sections, the Mokei Ndepi (the forest dwellers) who lived mainly around where Mt Hagen town is situated and in the mountain range towards Kuta, and the Mokei Kuipi (the plains dwellers) who lived mainly in the kunai grass plains beyond Oglbeng.
The missionaries would bring shells from the coast and these were greatly prized by the local people. The missionaries used the shells to buy food and also sometimes to pay workers.
Soon afterwards, this bailer shell was included in the bride price given by Wan to the Jika Oprump clan to buy a wife for his son Wamp (pictured right in 1934).
Wamp was already a leader who later was knighted by the Queen to become Sir Wamp Wan. The woman he took as wife was Palt, the daughter of Kuli from Jika Oprump. She was the mother of Wamp’s eldest son William Weimp Wamp. Palt sadly died following the birth of Weimp.
The beautiful bailer shell that Wan had given to Kuli was coveted by many people and, according to Fr Ross, eagerness to possess the shell was a major contributing factor to a tribal fight in 1934 involving Jika, Remdi and Mokei Kuipi.
The big man Nui, father of Pung Nui, from Mokei Kuipi Okumanaka was killed and the Mokei Kuipi clans felt threatened and appealed for help to the Mokei Ndepi and to prominent planter Danny Leahy and Fr Ross.
According to Fr Ross, he and Leahy deployed contract workers to accompany some Mokei Ndepi men to bring a large number of Mokei Kuipi people from the Maip and Kelua area beyond Oglebeng to the Mokei Ndepi areas of Wilya and Kugumamp.
Among those who came and originally settled near Rebiamul was the man Nui from Mokei Okapuka (not to be confused with Nui from Mokei Okumanaka who had been killed.)
Mokei Okapuka Nui had a daughter named Rombuk. He later settled near Kamunga not far from Rebiamul.
Around the same time there was also tension among the Jika clans. Jika is a large tribe and there are three major sub divisions: the Jika Andapoins who live mainly beyond Oglebeng; the Jika Maipingel who live on the north side of Hagen town and around Oglebeng; and the Jika Mukuka who live towards Nebilyer around Moika, Keltiga and Kemenk.
One of the leaders of the Jika Mukuka was a man named Au. His son Pena Au became a member of the House of Assembly. Au was in possession of a pig, Wabia, which was stolen - a theft that triggered a major tribal war pitting the Jika Mukuka against several clans from the Jika Maipingel.
The Jika Mukuka were greatly outnumbered and were defeated. They lost many killed and numerous others had to flee their land. Some of the Jika Mukuka Murimp clan fled into the hills to Kuta where Dan Leahy was established. (That's Dan at left with Wamp Wan and other leaders at Mt Hagen.)
Leahy records that a leader of the Jika Mukuka Murimp clan, a man named Wingti (son of Weimp of Jika Mukuka and Pagl Rognda of Kinjika), asked for his help saying that their enemies were pursuing them.
There were about 50 in the group led by Wingti. Leahy came to an agreement with Wingti that, if his group worked for him, they could build houses and make gardens on the land near Kuta. As related in the book Kundi Dan, Leahy summed up his description of that episode by saying: “That was the Mugugas; Jika Muguga Wingti. He was a good bloke, Wingti”.
So both the Jika Mukuka clan and the Mokei Kuipi clan had the misfortune to have suffered because of tribal warfare.
Members of both clans were forced to leave their land at least temporarily and find refuge elsewhere. In fact they found refuge not far from each other. Kuta was not far from Kugumamp or Wilya. There were no enemy clans in between.
Wingti from Jika Mukuka was a leader but still a relatively young man. Mokei Okupuka Nui had several children. One of them was a young girl named Rombuk. Wingti married Rombuk.
Yaga from Mokei Akilika was a major big man who would later claim he arranged the marriage of Jika Wingti and Rombuk. That may or may not be the case, anyway the fact is that Jika Mukuka Wingti married Rombuk from Mokei Okapuka.
One of their sons was born in the early 1950s and was baptised by Fr Ross with the name Paias (Pius). In 1985, Paias Wingti became prime minister of Papua New Guinea, the first highlander to achieve that high office, and is still a member of parliament.
Most of the Jika Mukuka clan returned to their own land at Moika and Keltiga. Some of the Moke Kwibi (Kuipi) also reclaimed their land, though many continue to live among the Mokei Ndepi. Some remained near Wamp’s area.
Many also settled with the Mokei Komunka in the Tiling and Mambila areas where with the Komunka they started the successful KomKui business corporation. (Komunka and Kuipi = Kom + Kui = Komkui).
Both of Paias Wingti’s parents were displaced from their own land because of tribal warfare. Yet out of that situation came a marriage that produced a future prime minister and member of the Queen’s Privy Council.